Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Google Workers Split Over Censor-Friendly Chinese Search and News Plan

Google China Google may be launching Search for China. Nur
Oscar Goodwin | 04 August, 2018, 17:50

The prospect of Google returning to China is in line with the trend of several U.S. tech giants willing to tailor their products and services in order to gain access to the massive Chinese market.

Censorship seems to be a way of life in China, as Baidu, the number one search engine in China, mentioned "censorship" during its second quarter 2018 earnings call on Tuesday when Alicia Yap, analyst at Citigroup Global Markets Asia, asked about "the recent operating environment for the overall newsfeed and advertising content censorship".

The Intercept reported Wednesday that Google plans to launch a search app in China that would block sensitive websites and search terms to comply with Chinese government censorship.

Facebook's website is also banned in China but the company has also signalled its interest to enter the market.

The project codenamed Dragonfly is claimed to have been underway since early past year, with acceleration seen during the last couple of months, courtesy high-level meetings between Sundar Pichai and "a top Chinese government official".

Google's new search engine, reportedly codenamed Dragonfly, will block terms related to religion and human rights, both areas of some controversy in China. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans", Google said in an emailed statement. The Chinese government is yet to give final approval, The Intercept said. China subsequently blocked Google's services on the mainland.

"The reality is that they will be serving the Chinese government", said Lockman Tsui, former head of free expression for Google in Asia.

The work followed a meeting between Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official. In 2014 and 2015, Google developed a version of its Play app store that only included apps and services approved by the Chinese government, but that hasn't launched. Google is reportedly developing an Android app that will bring its search services back to China, with heavily restrictions on access to content that is deemed unfavourable by the ruling party. It is now expected that Google will launch in China within the next nine months if the Chinese government allows it.

Per the Bloomberg report, one Google employee transferred to a different role at the company due to ethical concerns over Dragonfly.

Google's re-entry into China will see it compete with Baidu, which now has nearly 70 per cent of the domestic search market, according to data by StatCounter Global Stats. According to the leaked materials, the development of the censorship-friendly mobile search engine app began in the spring of a year ago.

This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom.

While going to Google to search for virtually anything is a common practice for many of us, the same isn't true for people in China.

What has been censored in China's has varied somewhat over the years. "We want to be in China serving Chinese users". The country's entire internet is effectively "surrounded" by its Great Firewall of China, a joint effort by the state and tech and telecommunications companies to censor the web in accordance with Chinese law.

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